Hospitals across the country are experiencing an increase in very sick patients from respiratory illnesses like flu and RSV. The highest hospitalization rates are in children and older adults. In the past two weeks, Utah’s Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital has seen a rapid increase in the number of children who require hospitalization with RSV, which has filled all pediatric beds across the state.
While flu numbers are still low in Utah, an increase is being seen in many other parts of the country and is expected to arrive in Utah in coming weeks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has already reported two pediatric flu deaths in the 2022-23 season. And if an anticipated COVID-19 surge folllows, resulting in a so-called tripledemic, hospitals could be overwhelmed this winter. Vaccination against both flu and COVID-19 can help Utah avert this crisis.
Janelle Delgadillo, an epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) says, “Flu severity in Utah is low right now, but we have seen a growing trend in residents who seek treatment for flu and flu-like illness. There is not vaccine for RSV, but there are vaccines for flu and COVID-19. Getting a flu vaccine and being up-to-date with your COVID-19 vaccines are the best way to reduce your risk of illness.”
While some people who get a flu or COVID-19 vaccine may still get sick, vaccination can make their illness less severe. Being up-to-date on your immunizations not only protects you but may also help protect those around you who are at higher risk for becoming seriously ill with respiratory illness such as babies, young children, older adults, people who are pregnant, and those who have chronic health conditions.
Stay up-to-date on immunizations
Available flu vaccines have been updated this season to help protect against 4 different flu viruses expected to circulate in Utah and the rest of the U.S. Flu vaccines are widely available and many times are provided at no cost to you. To find a flu provider near you, search your ZIP code at https://www.vaccines.gov/find-vaccines/, To see what’s happening with flu in Utah, visit https://epi.health.utah.gov/influenza-reports/. Numbers are updated weekly, generally on Wednesday.
The new bivalent COVID-19 vaccine contains 2 components to provide better protection against COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant. To find a COVID-19 vaccine in Utah, visit https://coronavirus.utah.gov/vaccine-distribution/.
Protect young children from RSV
While there is no vaccine available for RSV at this time, parents and those who care for young children should take extra precautions, such as:
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes and use masks if appropriate.
- Wash their hands (and yours) often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces.
- Avoid touching their face (and yours) with unwashed hands.
- Limit the time they spend in childcare centers or other potentially contagious settings when RSV activity is high.
- Stay home when you’re sick.
Call your healthcare provider if your child has trouble breathing, isn’t drinking enough fluids, or symptoms are getting worse.